Sit Spots are a common practice seen in place-based programs. The purpose of the Sit Spot is for children to choose a place in the outdoors that resonates with them and return repeatedly to this spot to observe their surroundings over time. It is assumed this practice will assist the children to become better connected with nature. Sit Spots are also encouraged to be used by adults as a type of mindfulness practice and are described as a practice leading to less stress and a happier life. Sit Spots encourage an awakening of the senses and there are guides for educators, parents and interested adults as to how one might become more sensorially attuned to the more-than-human world. The trouble with Sit Spots is this gaze into ‘nature’ is from a distance and from an onto-epistemological perspective (Barad, 2007), the practice of a Sit Spot reinforces binaries such as human from nature and the knower (human) from the known (nature). This blog post seeks to trouble the notion of a Sit Spot as one which only serves the purpose of the knowing human and speculates what might happen if Sit Spots were re-imagined as a practice of hesitation (Stengers, 2008). The philosopher Isabelle Stengers proposes hesitating as a practice that counters the normative response of the modern human to take for granted scientific knowledge as universal and objective (Latour, 1993; Stengers, 2008). What if Sit Spots became a sitting-with practice where one slows down, hesitates and considers their own situated and relational entanglement in what is already becoming?
This blog is emerging from my walks-with Gabbiljee, the watery place at the end of Derbarl Yerrigan, also known as the Swan River in Perth, Western Australia. As I walk, I am thinking-with the concept of relationality. Thinking-with relationality shifts my attention from thinking about Place to thinking-with the specific relational entanglements that are emerging from within Place-researcher encounters. This is difficult and challenging work; thinking, walking and doing diffractively means deliberately denying the normative practices that define both educational research and early childhood education. One of these walks led to a leaf-puddle-researcher entanglement that caused a diffractive doing (Becoming-with leaf-puddle: blurring the boundaries of place-based pedagogies).
Image: sitting-with spot
An encounter with leaf-puddle. Becoming-with leaf-puddle has caused agitations, affected me. Walking away from leaf-puddle yet still becoming-with one another. The temptation to define the encounter is strong, so much that it stops me in my tracks. Sitting on a fallen branch by water. Twigs poke the parts of me that connect to ground. Dry leaf litter crunches, crumbles as my weight pushes down on leaves, twigs, bark, earth. Flying insect, a mosquito perhaps, flies around my face, hand brushes it away, flying insect is determined to stay. Slowing down, hesitating-with ground, branch, twigs and flying insect. Coming back into relation with Place. Where am I situated in this Place? What is Place asking of me? Sitting-with Place, sitting-with not knowing.
In this rather pivotal moment, this sitting-with spot becomes a part of the unfolding leaf-puddle-researcher entanglement. Whilst the details within this moment might seem inconsequential, I argue it is precisely these details (the poking twigs, the sound of the crumbling leaf litter, the persistent flying insect) that make this moment entirely consequential. Slowing down and noticing my own situated and sensorial relationality with Place (Blaise & Hamm, 2020) opens up possibilities to do things differently. Sitting-with spot invites slowing down and hesitating (Stengers, 2008). This practice is not for the purpose of stopping to enjoy nature but is a way to “actively resist the temptation” to name, describe, know or understand Place (Stengers, 2008, p.39). Sitting-with my own situated and relational entanglement with Place diffracts thinking in otherwise directions, such as thinking about how I am situated in this leaf-puddle-research entanglement. What past-present-futures does my colonial upbringing privilege (and ignore)? What kind of attention and care is leaf-puddle demanding of me (Stengers, 2008)?
Hesitating invites us to consider how and why we are affected by an event by examining our own situatedness with and within what is becoming (Stengers, 2008). Sitting-with spots can therefore be understood as both a metaphor for hesitating but also as a practice of doing. Slowing down and hesitating activates a new kind of doing, an awareness that what we do and how we do it matters (Barad, 2007). What if Sit Spots became sitting-with dry leaves or sitting-with fallen Marri branch?
A space to stop and sit (either metaphorically or literally) and think-with where and how we are situated within an event?
What different kinds of place-pedagogies might this kind of situated thinking activate?
Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway. Duke University Press.
Blaise, M. & Hamm, C. (2020). Lively Emu dialogues: activating feminist common worlding pedagogies, Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 7(2), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.1080/14681366.2020.1817137
Haraway, D. (2016). Staying with the trouble: Making kin in the chtulucene. Duke University Press.
Latour, B. (1993). We have never been modern. Harvester Wheatsheaf.
Stengers, I. (2008). Experimenting with refrains: Subjectivity and the challenge of escaping modern dualism. Subjectivity, 22(1), 38-59.
About Sit Spots